An imam and his assistant were shot to death near a Mosque in Queens, New York after leaving a prayer service, The New York Daily News reports.
The slain imam was identified as Maulama Akonjee, 55, said ABC and CBS News. Akonjee recently arrived in America from Bangladesh and was a married father who was described as a “revered religious leader,” said The Daily News.
Pix 11 said the men were shot “on their walk home from services at a Queens mosque.”
People at the scene cast immediate blame on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, although the motive for the attack was not yet clear. Police had not connected the slayings to the men’s religious faith, said ABC. New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s spokesman said his office was “closely monitoring the NYPD investigation of this tragedy.”
“There’s nothing in the preliminary investigation to indicate that they were targeted because of their faith,” Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner of the New York Police Department said, according to USA Today.
On Aug. 15, Fox News reported that police were questioning a person of interest in the murders. According to The New York Post, police “believe the murderer ‘knew the imam and knew his schedule,'” Fox said.
ABC News said Akonjee had $1,000 on him when he was shot, but it wasn’t taken.
The New York Daily News said one of the men was the mosque’s imam and the other slain man was his assistant.
ABC News said police say both men were shot in the head. According to USA Today, they were shot in the back of the head by the gunman, who remains at large.
A relative identified the imam’s assistant as Thara Uddin, 60, said The New York Post. His brother told The Post that he believes it was a hate crime and the family is very distraught.
The suspect was not yet identified as the news unfolded quickly on Twitter. The gunman ran up to the men and shot them on the street, said Pix 11.
However, police released a sketch artist’s drawing of the suspect:
PIX 11 said police sources were indicating initially that the motive might be robbery, although that’s not yet proven. The New York Daily News said police also initially said it was not a hate crime, although they did not provide a motive; the gunman fled the scene on foot. At the scene, though, people shouted that it was a hate crime.
The New York Times said hundreds gathered at the scene, shouting things like, “We want justice!”
The Daily News quoted Khairul Islam, 33, as saying: “We blame Donald Trump for this … Trump and his drama has created Islamophobia.”
PIX 11 said, “According to sources, a man walked over to the men and allegedly shot them both” and one of the victims is the “head imam” at the mosque.
The Daily News said the Queens imam and assistant were shot “while walking home from afternoon prayers.” The newspaper said the attack was caused by a “lone shooter” and said that witnesses were calling it a “targeted attack.”
USA Today said surveillance video showed the shooter was “a man, with medium complexion, shorts and a dark polo shirt” who approached “them from behind before fleeing with a gun.”
The shooting occurred near the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid Mosque in Ozone Park, “leaving both victims lying on the ground in their own blood,” said The Daily News.
The slain imam was described as a religious and “pious” person with no enemies, said The New York Times.